Who's on Top?

Columbus Alive | September 8, 2005
The black guy/white guy buddy cop formula was twenty years old when it was resurrected for detestable Martin Lawrence vehicle National Security, and that was a full two years before The Man plugged Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy into the formula, two actors who also seem very 2003, as their near omnipresence on movie screens has waned slightly of late.

If adherence to such a dated formula was The Man’s worst crime, it would be easier to forgive, but halfway in the filmmakers clutch for the last resort of desperate film comedy—flatulence.

Jackson is a lone wolf ATF agent working out of Detroit whose dirty partner was just killed by gunrunners. When he tries setting up a buy to bust the bad guys, Levy’s Wisconsin family man/dental supply salesman is mistaken for Jackson by the dealers, and so Jackson forces him to play along until the bust is over. Hilarity ensues. Or, at least, that’s the plan—when hilarity fails to ensue, director Les Mayfield (Flubber, Encino Man) always has flatulence jokes to fall back on.

Jackson has had plenty of practice playing this exact same badass character, and glares his way through this movie with ease. Likewise, Levy has had plenty of opportunities to perfect his awkward, uptight act, and his role here—basically one long reaction to Jackson’s glare—is similarly well executed. Despite the ease with which they perform their assigned schticks, the pair has little chemistry, and even all the chemistry in the world wouldn’t help save this pile of tired cop movie clichés, especially considering all of the comedy elements are ass-related.

When not focusing on literal ass comedy—what’s coming out of Levy’s, bullets going into both men’s, airport cavity searches, prison rape, a stoolie character actually named "Booty"—there’s the metaphorical anal fixation, as Levy and Jackson’s characters are engaged throughout the film in an ongoing argument over which of them is “the Man” and which is “the bitch” in their relationship. No wonder then that the results are so excretal.

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